Friday, September 21, 2012

Time for Wisconsin Taxpayers to Stop Buying Choo-Choo Tracks for Koch!


When Mitt rMONEY talks about freeloaders, those not paying their share, he creates strawmen out of imaginary groups of Americans that he claims Obama has bought-out and now holds in serfdom.  He distracts from the real freeloaders -- General Electric and other multinational billionaire business interests such as WATCO Transportation, a Koch brothers asset that is the recipient of millions of dollars of public monies courtesy of Gov. Scott Walker.  WATCO's biggest handout, courtesy Walker, is yet to come.  Wisconsin & Southern's Railroad's pay-to-play is nearing completion.

VOICES talked to Wisconsin railroad commissioner Jeff Pale who indicated that Scott Walker would be putting monies in the next state budget to buy a Union Pacific (formerly Chicago Northwestern) rail line that Wisconsin DOT identifies WSOR as being the operator of.  WSOR currently under long-term lease agreement between UP and WSOR and has had an agreement since 1996.

The track is in terrible shape, reportedly with some sections operating under 10 mph speed limits to prevent derailments.  The line also has a 100+ year old bridge at Merrimac which is due for major repairs.  "Experts" want us to believe that this under-utilized and deteriorating line is worth $51 million dollars ($41 million for land, $10 million for track).

In 2010, DOT had planned to buy the line using federal stimulus funds.  This did not happen once Walker became governor and canceled plans for high-speed rail and the federal government re-allocated these monies to states that were cooperating with national rail transit plans. 

While this was happening, WSOR president Bill Gardner became the first convicted criminal co-conspirator in the ongoing John Doe investigation into the criminality that underlies Scott Walker's ascent to power.  He coordinated a massive bundling scheme where employees donated to Walker's gubernatorial campaign knowing they were going to be paid back by their employer -- WSOR.

Gardern took the hit and is now a convicted felon (2 counts).  Railroad employees were not held accountable for their participation, even though they agreed to be part of the criminality and accepted payment for their "donations".   The crimes for which Gardner plead guilty and was convicted actually occurred across his railroad.

Shortly after Gardner's conviction, shielded from public and media scrutiny because it occured over the 2011 holiday season, Bill Gardner sold the majority of his ownership to WATCO which boasts that it is the largest transportation holding company in the world.  Wisconsin DOT attorney Kathleen Chung filed a misleading letter with the Surface Transportation Board which ommitted any mention or concerns about WSOR/Gardner's criminality in what appears to be a pay-for-play agreement.


WATCO is directly or indirectly a Koch brother's asset, publishing in its own newsletter that more than 70 percent of its business comes directly from Koch Industries.  WSOR is essentially a paper railroad, operating almost exclusely on tracks owned primarily by the State of Wisconsin and others -- it owns locomotives and equipment, but has exclusive contracts to operate on its freight routes.

In a conversation with VOICES, Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Pale revealed that Bill Gardner has sold his remaining interests with Wisconsin Southern about 2-weeks ago, a significant development that was not reported by the media.  The WSOR website no longer identifies Bill Gardner as CEO -- he gets no mention at all.  There is no indication of any ownership changes.

Scott Walker just announced a $1.8 million grant to build a temperature-controlled warehouse in Reedsburg that would be on that rail line.  This traffic would be routed through Madison and is part of the anticipated increase in carloadings that WSOR expects to move through the city.  This line will also be play a key role increasing fracking sand operations in Wisconsin.

Pale stated that WSOR plans to run more trains through Madison and these would include traffic off the Reedsburg-Madison line, increasing rail traffic through the WSOR East Johnson Street corridor.  Pale claims this will create safety concerns and is forcing Madison to close 2 railway/road crossings.

Pale told VOICES that the City of Madison has filed suit to overturn this order.  The corridor in question is part of WSOR yard limits -- trains currently move through at 10 mph as they are entering or leaving the East Johnson Yard.  There is a tight curve in the track -- it does not appear that WSOR can actually increase speeds to 25 or more mph, yet Pale insists this will be the case.  Perhaps Pale's next order will be to revoke applicable laws of physics.

There's an important story here -- when Bill Gardner, in collusion with a large number of employees, conspired to bundle almost $70,000 in campaign contributions to support the anti-high speed rail candidate, Scott Walker, he violated lease agreements with the State of Wisconsin that clearly state the railroad cannot be engaged in criminal activities and retain the rights to operate on state trackage.

Lease agreements, obtained only after a great deal of effort, follow-up, and a complaint files with Wisconsin Supreme Court Lawyers Regulation Divsion, clearly state that WSOR is prohibited from committing crimes (quote below from lease with East Wisconsin County Railroad Contortion, 2008, page 27):
To the best of its knowledge, the execution of this agreement and the providing of the freight rail service it is obligated to provide will not violate any statue, rule, regulation, order, writ, injunction or other decree of any court, administrative agency or government body.
WSOR/Gardners felonies, bundling campaign contributions for the gubernatorial candidate that promised to kill high-speed rail, were prohibited by WSOR's operating agreements.  Breaching leases means that WSOR/GARDNER no longer had a legal claim to an state-certified monopoly to operate on state-owned tracks.

The sale to WATCO cannot withstand scrutiny.  Gardner literally sold lease agreements that he no longer had a right to own based on the felonies he admitted and was convicted on -- but remember, it wasn't just Bill Gardner that committed these crimes -- it was the railroad itself and its employees.

Gardner has made untold millions of these crimes, selling his interests in the railroad out to the very interests behind Scott Walker in a secret agreement that is shielded from the public.

With Gardner now out of the way, it appears the Koch brothers and Walker have decided they can complete their pay-for-play and buy the Reedsburg-Madison line for at least $40 million, then pay WATCO to upgrade the track, and then let WATCO keep virtually all of the revenue generated from this public investment.

WATCO is an extremely profitable multinational company.  Interests involved with WATCO, the Koch brothers, have invested millions of dollars to elect Scott Walker.  Walker's "divide and conquer" agenda can be shown to come from these same interests.

While public investments in transportation infrastructure is justifiable, the rule of law demands that a fraudulent sale of WSOR be overturned.  If WATCO/Koch brothers want to run trains in Wisconsin, the should compete in a free market for these agreements and the State of Wisconsin should have the opportuntity to revisit agreements to ensure that WATCO/Koch are paying their fair share.

Please help stop government give-aways to corporations that see themselves as above the law. When Walker moves forward with the Reedsburg-Madison rail line purchase, please join the fight to ensure that public investments are responsibly managed and that the Koch brothers don't obtain a government subsidized cash cow to continue to fund divisive politicians like Wisconsin's Deceiver-in-Chief Gov. Scott "John Doe" Walker.

Here are some contacts to get started:
  • Kathleen Chung, Attorney. Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Office of General Counsel, 4802 Sheboygan Avenue, Room II5B/P.O. Box 7910, Madison, Wl 53707-7910. Phone: (608) 266-8752; email: kathleen.chung@dot.wi.gov
  • Cynthia Brown, Chief; Section of Administration. Office of Proceedings, Surface Transportation Board can be reached at: 395 E Street S.W. Washington. DC 20024. Her phone number and email address is: (202) 245-0384; email: brownc@stb.dot.gov
  • Andrea Pope-Matheson, Paralegal Specialist (Brown’s assistant) Surface Transportation Board, Office of Proceedings (address above). Phone: (202) 245-0363; email: Andrea.Pope-Matheson@stb.dot.gov
  • Gabriel S. Meyer, Attorney-Advisor , Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs & Compliance; Rail Customer & Public Assistance Program, (address above). 1-866-254-1792 or (202) 245-0150. Email:Gabriel.Meyer@stb.dot.gov
  • Brett Husley, 77th Assembly District. Room 3 North, State Capitol, P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708. Phone: (608) 266-7521; email: Rep.Hulsey@legis.wi.gov
  • Amy Sue Vruwin, 70th Assembly District. Room 112 North, State Capitol P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708. Phone: (608) 266-8366 Or (888) 534-0070; email: Rep.Vruwink@legis.wisconsin.gov
  • Senator Fred Risser 26th Senate District. Room 130 South, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882. Phone: (608) 266-1627; email: Sen.Risser@legis.wisconsin.gov
  • US Senator Tammy Balwin. DC Office: 2446 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515. Phone: (202) 225-2906; Madison Office: 10 East Doty St., Suite 405, Madison, WI 53703; Phone: (608) 258-9800

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